Barna on Revolutionaries

In the effort to increase their obedience and faithfulness to God, Barna discovered that Revolutionaries are characterized by what he identified as a set of spiritual passions – seven specific emphases that drive their quest for God and a biblical lifestyle. Although these are areas of spiritual development that most local churches address, millions of adults who are the most serious about their faith in God were the ones least likely to be satisfied by what their local church was delivering in terms of resources, opportunities, evaluation and developmental possibilities. The consequence is that millions of committed born again Christians are choosing to advance their relationship with God by finding avenues of growth and service apart from a local church.

Asked if this meant that the Revolution he describes is simply a negative reaction to the local church, he suggested that most Revolutionaries go through predictable phases in their spiritual journey in which they initially become dissatisfied with their local church experience, then attempt to change things so their faith walk can be more fruitful. The result is that they undergo heightened frustration over the inability to introduce positive change, which leads them to drop out of the local church altogether, often in anger. But because this entire adventure was instigated by their love for God and their desire to honor Him more fully, they finally transcend their frustration and anger by creating a series of connections that allow them to stay close to God and other believers without involvement in a local church.

One of the hallmarks of the Revolution of faith is how different it is for each person. “It would be wrong to assume that all Revolutionaries have completely turned their back on the local church,” the researcher stated. “Millions of Revolutionaries are active in a local church, although most of them supplement that relationship with participation in a variety of faith-related efforts that have nothing to do with their local church. The defining attribute of a Revolutionary is not whether they attend church, but whether they place God first in their lives and are willing to do whatever it takes to facilitate a deeper and growing relationship with Him and other believers. Our studies persuasively indicate that the vast majority of American churches are populated by people who are lukewarm spiritually. Emerging from those churches are people dedicated to becoming Christ-like through the guidance of a congregational form of the church, but who will leave that faith center if it does not further such a commitment to God. They then find or create alternatives that allow that commitment to flourish.”

How do most Revolutionaries justify calling themselves devoted disciples of Christ while distancing themselves from a local church? “Many of them realize that someday they will stand before a holy God who will examine their devotion to Him. They could take the safe and easy route of staying in a local church and doing the expected programs and practices, but they also recognize that they will not be able to use a lackluster church experience as an excuse for a mediocre or unfulfilled spiritual life. Their spiritual depth is not the responsibility of a local church; it is their own responsibility. As a result, they decide to either get into a local church that enhances their zeal for God or else they create alternatives that ignite such a life of obedience and service. In essence, these are people who have stopped going to church so they can be the Church.” [from A Faith Revolution Is Redefining “Church”]

Hmmm. Sounds vaguely familiar…

According to Barna, the seven passions of revolutionaries are:

  • Intimate worship
  • Faith-based conversations
  • Intentional spiritual growth
  • Resource investment
  • Compassionate servanthood
  • Spiritual friendships
  • Family faith

Gotta wonder about neat lists like this (sounds too Rick Warren though thankfully he hasn't twisted it into an acronym). But, well, I must admit it reasonates to a certain extent. Family worship and spiritual conversation times are high on the agenda for us after all.

2 thoughts on “Barna on Revolutionaries

  1. Matt, I must admit that this concept resonates with me too, and being labeled a Revolutionary rather than a liberal is also appealing. This concept of Barna’s dovetails with Jamieson’s Churchless Faith idea. Glad to see we’re not alone.

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  2. John
    Yes, though I think both the term ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘churchless faith’ do invite confusion. Is what is happening in the global South any less ‘revolutionary’ for the Christian movement as a whole? Are not many of those whole identify with ‘churchless faith’ phenomenon not experimenting with alternate forms of Christian community? I obviously find conventional church somewhat lacklustre but my response has been to deconstruct/reconstruct our conceptions of church rather than abandon it entirely.
    The author notes: “That growth is fueling alternative forms of organized spirituality, as well as individualized faith experience and expression. Examples of these new approaches include involvement in a house church, participation in marketplace ministries, use of the Internet to satisfy various faith-related needs or interests, and the development of unique and intense connections with other people who are deeply committed to their pursuit of God.” I have engaged in all of this – so I obviously identify with it – yet as part of that I also maintain loose and tenuous connections with the established church.
    This is hardly ‘solitary’ Christianity. It all comes down to how narrowly you define church as to whether that word is still useful…or how narrowly your audience defines it. Jamieson’s usage presupposes conventional understandings. But there is a certain anachronism in projecting conventional understandings (which include pulpits, pews, properties and paid preachers) onto all churches for all times.

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